Q&A with Randall K.
Ignore Misleading Figures, Planned Parenthood Is “Big Abortion”
Editor’s note. Whenever
questioned about the hundreds of millions the Planned Parenthood
Federation of America (PPFA) receives every year in government
funding, PPFA ducks, bobs, and weaves. At the top of its evasions is
a multi-fold defense that attempts to demonstrate that abortion is a
small part of what it does, bringing in barely enough to pay the
utilities. Is this plausible? To those who don’t have the
opportunity to closely follow the money and statistical trails, yes.
But are they true? No! Contrary to the official PPFA line, its
abortion connection has, if anything, been underplayed. For an
explanation we turn to Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., National Right to
Life’s resident expert on Planned Parenthood. Dr. O’Bannon has
tracked the activities of PPFA and its affiliates for us for over 20
years and has written dozens and dozens of stories and blog entries
about the country’s largest abortion provider, which aborted 332,278
babies in 2009.
NRL News: Let’s start
with this claim that abortion represents “only 3% of Planned
Parenthood’s services,” the single most common PPFA defense. Where
does this come from and is it in any sense true?
Randall K. O’Bannon,
Ph.D.: If you were PPFA, above all you want people’s eyes
distracted from the 330,000+ abortions you perform a year. How could
you minimize its prevalence and its importance to your bottom line?
(This is complicated, so please bear with me.)
By bundling services when it
serves your purpose, and unbundling when it makes you look better.
It arrives at this 3% figure by using some very strained
mathematics, by counting everything given to, or done for, a given
patient as a separate service. So if a young mom comes into a
Planned Parenthood clinic for an abortion, she’ll probably also have
a pregnancy test, maybe a test for an STD, and then may receive a
packet of birth control pills after her abortion. So, is that one
“service” or four? Planned Parenthood counts each of these as a
Moreover, this same woman
coming in for an abortion may receive three, four, or more
additional services, such as an ultrasound, an antibiotic, and an Rh
type and hemoglobin test, all connected to her abortion visit. When
counted separately, it makes it look like abortion was only one
among several other more conventional “reproductive health care”
services or procedures. [See PPFA’s 3/11 fact sheet on services at
PPFA offers the “3% of
services” mantra day in and day out. It is accepted uncritically by
the media. The figure is purposefully confusing. A much more
understandable—and accurate—measure is to look at the numbers of
clients, rather than the number of “services.” That tells a very
Outside of places like
National Right to Life News and NRL News Today, you virtually never
read that the percentage of PPFA’s clients that receive abortions is
12%. As we shall see in a moment, that is important not only because
it reveals its enormous investment in abortion, but also because
abortions generate a hefty share of clinic revenue.
NRL News: So, to be
clear, that means that nearly one in eight women walking through the
door of a Planned Parenthood clinic receiving services has an
O’Bannon: Well, even
that probably understates the abortion-related traffic to Planned
Parenthood. In 2009 over 1.1 million women coming to Planned
Parenthood had a pregnancy test. We don’t know what percentage of
those were positive. What we do know is that of the services Planned
Parenthood reported that would have involved pregnant women
(abortion, prenatal care, adoption referrals), 97.6% were abortion.
On the PPFA Services fact
sheet, Planned Parenthood says it provided services for three
million people in 2009. That would mean roughly a third were tested
for pregnancy. Considering how a woman can buy a relatively
inexpensive pregnancy test from her local drug or grocery store, she
must have had a reason to seek out Planned Parenthood. If the
availability of abortion was the reason, that would mean that
abortion was pulling in even more than the 12%.
NRL News: Even so,
12% of the business being devoted to abortion would be a significant
percentage, would it not?
O’Bannon: That it
would be. But to reiterate, abortion certainly accounts for a great
deal more than just 12% as a portion of PPFA’s business, especially
if you’re looking at it in monetary terms.
To see how significant
abortion is to Planned Parenthood’s bottom line, there is no
equivalency between a $15 pregnancy test or a $6 pack of condoms or
$15–$50 packet of birth control pills and an abortion which runs
$350–$950 for a first-trimester abortion [see
Here’s some very basic math.
At $451 (the Guttmacher Institute’s estimated average cost for a
standard first-trimester surgical abortion), the 332,278 abortions
Planned Parenthood performed in 2009 would represent $149.9
million—37% of the $404.9 million in clinic revenues PPFA took in
for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009 [see PPFA 2008–09
Annual Report at
NRL News: That’s a
far cry from the 3% we started with.
O’Bannon: And since
Planned Parenthood clinics also advertise and perform more expensive
chemical abortions, like those with RU486, and later surgical
abortions, which average more than $1,500 at 20 weeks, that income
and that percentage are probably much higher. One thing is clear
from the data we have, data that comes from Planned Parenthood
itself. In spite of the spin and the deflections, Planned Parenthood
certainly is “Big Abortion”-- the nation’s biggest performer and
most aggressive promoter of abortion.
NRL News: We know we
have to be 100% accurate or the 99% that is correct gets tossed
away. What are some common mistakes with regard to the data?
O’Bannon: Speaking in
terms of Planned Parenthood’s “profits” instead of “revenues.”
Another is to confuse its clinic or “health center income” with the
total revenues of the organization. Planned Parenthood had total
revenues of $1.1 billion in FY 2009, but only 37% of that came from
clinic income. It got another $363.3 million in “government grants
and contracts” and private contributions totaling $308.2 million,
and another $24.5 million from other sources.
One thing people also need
to do is to be specific. Don’t say that 90% of Planned Parenthood’s
patients have abortions, because that isn’t correct. What is true is
that in looking at those services intrinsically connected to
pregnancy—abortion, prenatal care, and adoption—97.6% of those were
NRL News: Anything
else you want to say about this 3% claim that Planned Parenthood has
O’Bannon: If I may,
let me briefly mention three other related issues. First, PPFA is
building up its abortion business in a major way (see the editorial
on page 2). This is 180 degrees away from the organization’s attempt
to act as if abortion is incidental to what it does.
Second—to borrow from the
article I wrote that appears on page z—a secondary Planned
Parenthood tactic is to argue that increased funding will enable it
to reduce the numbers of abortions, but its own organizational
reports don’t seem to show that.
The revenue Planned
Parenthood receives in “Government Grants & Contracts” has gone from
$165 million in 1998 to $363.3 million in the organization’s fiscal
year ending June 30, 2009. During the same time, and at roughly the
same rate, abortions have more than doubled at Planned Parenthood,
from 165,509 in 1998 to 332,278 in 2009. All this while abortions in
the U.S., as a whole, dropped by about 25%. To say that Planned
Parenthood is committed to reducing abortions is to go against
decades of evidence that shows the exact opposite.
Third, to return to the
original question, we’ve shown that PPFA is heavily invested in—and
derives enormous income from—abortion.
But even if abortion
constituted “only” 3% of its business—which masks the truth—this
organization boldly and unapologetically destroys over 300,000
innocent human lives every year, making millions in the process, and
unapologetically defends its doing so.
This is not only an absolute
corruption of the very notion of “health care,” it is a gross abuse
of our most basic human rights, something that no civilized society
should tolerate, much less pay for.